It was happening again. Another unarmed person of color killed by police. Another grieving city at the breaking point.
As images of George Floyd suffocating beneath the knee of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin were broadcast globally last spring, Washington State University’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology was mobilizing.
“We are training the next generation of criminal justice professionals and have a responsibility here,” said department Chair Melanie-Angela Neuilly. “Systemic racial bias, fairness and equity are issues we’ve been mindful of and have been including in our curriculum, but we decided to put them at the forefront of everything we do.”
“It’s really a re-imagining of how we can incorporate action into the curriculum,” said David Makin, an associate professor and director of undergraduate education for the department. “It was a concerted effort. We looked at peer institutions, we met with students, we created focus groups and we took a baseline that helped us determine where we should go from here.”
Five new faculty members will be joining Washington State University in the fall as the inaugural cohort of the “Racism and Social Inequality in the Americas,” cluster hire program. Four of the five are in the College of Arts and Sciences.
The program was initiated to address system-wide needs for scholarship, teaching, and outreach aimed at dismantling systemic racism and to recruit and retain a more diverse faculty and student body.
The faculty positions were created based on proposals submitted by departments and campuses across the WSU system last fall. The program will continue in 2022, and will focus on health inequities and health justice in marginalized communities.
It was a busy road that drove Chris Mann to Pullman in 2018.
He had the option of attending the University of Washington or Washington State University. However, seeing the Seattle traffic during a visit to UW’s campus settled the matter.
“I hate traffic,” Mann said. “I toured the campus and couldn’t find a parking spot, so I pulled my application and called WSU to confirm.”
He graduates today with a double major in criminal justice and psychology.
After talking with other veterans and hearing about some of the challenges they face, Mann and others began meeting with the WSU administration. They set up a symposium to discuss issues faced by veterans and their families. That led to a realization that more resources were needed just to certify the paperwork required to receive VA benefits. Steps are also being taken to address health care access, so vets don’t have to go to Spokane or Walla Walla for treatment.
Here is the bottom line. If you are not getting sufficient sleep, you are suffering from fatigue. While this is not my area of expertise, I know people who know this stuff inside and out. Fatigue impacts decision-making. Fatigue impacts critical-thinking skills. Fatigue impacts judgment. Fatigue impacts coordination and balance. Fatigue impacts your length of life!
The guru on fatigue in public safety is Dr. Bryan Vila, former professor of criminal justice and criminology at Washington State University. I met this fellow way back in the 70s when he was Deputy Sheriff Bryan Vila with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office. We were both going to school in our “spare” time; he was studying something called evolutionary ecology. Bryan ended up with his PhD and ultimately started a program at WSU Spokane to study sleep deprivation issues in police work.
About a decade ago, Dr. Vila wrote a book about “tired cops” – he called it Tired Cops – and for me that was a wakeup call (no pun intended) on this issue. I bought a lot of copies and gave them to people who had control in their agencies and could do something about it.
The Student Legal Research Association will help evaluate arrest data from WSU’s police department as part of measures to address racial disparity in arrests on the Pullman campus. The campus police are also taking collaborating with university researchers to address implicit bias.
These actions are part of an effort to address disproportionate arrests of Black people by campus police, a problem identified by a Daily Evergreen article in fall 2019 and a following report by WSU Office of Compliance and Civil Rights (CCR) in May 2020. The term “arrest” in police data includes non-custody interactions such as issuing traffic citations.
The CBTSim program is just one that the WSU campus force will undertake, Gardner said. The department is working on another project with WSU criminal justice professor David Makin and the Complex Social Interactions Lab where officers will review body camera footage in very specific ways to try to understand the effect their actions have.